Wednesday, March 21, 2012
One of my favourite things to cook is soup. Soup is generally amazingly easy to make, although you can get complicated and fancy if you want. I enjoy making the whole spectrum: simple pureed soups, soups with a ton of different ingredients (I made that one recently from the new Looneyspoons book and it's awesome), but I think maybe my favourite kind of soups to make are comfort soups started from absolute scratch: chicken noodle and beef barley.
These soups can only be as good as their stock, so for me, the real fun and challenge is making an amazing stock. I actually love this part so much because I am super awesome at making stock and I will brag about my amazing and delicious stock until you are sick of hearing about it but totally jealous that you can't make stock as good as mine. (I should note, when I make pureed soups and stuff I just use powdered stock for the base because I consider my scratch stock to be too good to use in a soup that will just hide its flavour.)
I don't have any secrets though, as the recipe for stock is basically just boil a bunch of stuff and add some salt and eventually it will be delicious! I don't quite understand how people who make bad stock do it. Last time I made chicken stock it was absolutely out of this world though, and I think the reason for that was that I added leeks as a stock ingredient - I will never make stock without leeks again because they add a ton of great flavour.
Here is my recipe though, if you're interested:
Throw the following in a pot and simmer for a few hours until it tastes like you want it to:
Chicken carcass or beef soup bones
Strain the broth to get rid of all the gross bits (this is important so your soup looks and tastes nice and clear).
Especially with the beef, there will be a lot of melted fat floating around, so what I do to extract the straight stock and remove the fat is put the strained broth outside (if it's winter) or in the fridge until the fat solidifies and then remove it, leaving only flavourful stock behind.
That's all! For my chicken noodle soup I then add chopped carrots, celery, (pre-cooked) noodles, shredded chicken, and fresh parsley if I have any. For the beef barley I add tomato paste, chopped carrots and celery, shredded beef, and (pre-cooked) barley and lentils (the lentils are not a "classic" beef barley soup ingredient but I like the added nutrition they provide, and they don't have much flavour so they're just easy to throw in without sacrificing anything).
Here are some of my "stock photos" (they aren't that great but I just wanted to call them stock photos):
Last time I made beef stock I didn't need to use the whole batch for a pot of soup, so I froze half the batch in a sandwich bag in the freezer (it was really concentrated so it was only about half a cup or so of liquid). Today I decided to make another batch of beef soup so I chopped up some carrots and celery and then put them in a pot. I took a sandwich bag with some brown frozen liquid out of the freezer and dumped it on the carrots and celery. It didn't look quite right though - it just didn't seem like enough liquid and it had appeared to have become extra dark during its two-month stay in the freezer. I smelled it to see if it was actually beef, but it didn't have a smell. I was beginning to suspect it might be a liquified banana, but there was only one way to find out.
I touched my finger to the gelatinous brown lump and then tasted. It didn't really have much of a taste and I wasn't about to take a bite because quite honestly it looked like actual poop, but I seemed to get a bit of sweetness on my tongue. I looked again in the freezer and found my bag of frozen stock. Excellent, I had a thawing liquid banana in my soup pot. Luckily I was able to scoop it out in one piece:
I know, looks like poop right? Gross!
The real bag of stock.
I'm glad my instincts told me that the banana-poop wasn't actually beef stock and I was able to save my soup... because it was awesome. You wish you could have some but you CAN'T.